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Chapter 11:

  • Fort Sumter again
  • -- an expedition prepared to relieve it -- the expedition abandoned on account of a despatch from Major Anderson -- Mr. Holts letter to President Lincoln -- Fort Pickens in Florida -- its danger from the rebels -- the Brooklyn ordered to its relief -- the means by which it was saved from capture approved by General Scott and Messrs. Holt and Toucey, with the rest of the Cabinet -- Refutation of the charge that arms had been stolen -- report of the Committee on military Affairs and other documentary evidence -- the Southern and Southwestern States received less than their quota of arms -- the Pittsburg cannon -- General Scott's unfounded claim to the credit of preventing their shipment to the South -- removal of old muskets -- their value -- opinion of Mr. Holt in regard to the manner in which President Buchanan conducted the administration.

It is now necessary to return to Fort Sumter. This was the point on which the anxious attention of the American people was then fixed. It was not known until some days after the termination of the truce, on the 6th February, that Governor Pickens had determined to respect the appeal from the General Assembly of Virginia, and refrain from attacking the fort during the session of the Peace Convention. It, therefore, became the duty of the administration in the mean time to be prepared, to the extent of the means at command, promptly to send succor to Major Anderson should he so request, of in the absence of such request, should they ascertain from any other quarter that the fort was in danger. From the tenor of the Major's despatches to the War Department, no doubt was entertained that he could hold out, in case of need, until the arrival of re. enforcements. In this state of affairs, on the very day (30th January) on which the President received the demand for the surrender of the fort, he requested the Secretaries of War and the Navy, accompanied by General Scott, to meet him for the purpose of devising the best practicable means of instantly reenforcing [210] Major Anderson, should this be required. After several consultations an expedition for this purpose was quietly prepared at New York, under the direction of Secretary Toucey, for the relief of Fort Sumter, the command of which was intrusted to his intimate friend, the late lamented Commander Ward of the navy. This gallant officer had been authorized to select his own officers and men, who were to rendezvous on board of the receiving-ship, of which he was then in command. The expedition consisted of a few small steamers, and it was arranged that on receiving a telegraphic despatch from the Secretary, whenever the emergency might require, he should in the course of the following night set sail for Charleston, entering the harbor in the night, and anchoring if possible under the guns of Fort Sumter.

It is due to the memory of this brave officer to state that he had sought the enterprise with the greatest enthusiasm, and was willing to sacrifice his life in the accomplishment of the object, should such be his fate, saying to Secretary Toucey this would be the best inheritance he could leave to his wife and children.

According to General Scott's version of this affair in his report to President Lincoln: ‘At this time, when this [the truce on the 6th February] had passed away, Secretaries Holt and Toucey, Captain Ward of the navy, and myself with the knowledge of the President [Buchanan], settled upon the employment under the captain (who was eager for the expedition) of three or four small steamers belonging to the coast survey.’ But this expedition was kept back, according to the General; and for what reason Not because the Peace Convention remained still in session, and the President would not break it up by sending reenforcements to Fort Sumter whilst the authorities of South Carolina continued to respect the appeal of the General Assembly of Virginia to avoid collision, and whilst Major Anderson at the point of danger had asked no reenforcements The General, passing over these the true causes for the delay in issuing the order to Commander Ward to set sail, declares this was kept back ‘by something like a truce or armistice made here [in Washington] between President Buchanan and the principal seceders of South Carolina,’ etc., etc., the existence of which has [211] never been pretended by any person except himself It soon appeared that General Scott, as well, as the President and Secretaries of War and the Navy, had been laboring under a great misapprehension in supposing, from the information received from Major Anderson, that this small expedition, under Commander Ward, might be able to relieve Fort Sumter. How inadequate this would have proved to accomplish the object, was soon afterwards demonstrated by a letter, with enclosures, from Major Anderson to the Secretary of War. This was read by Mr. Holt, greatly to his own surprise and that of every other member of the Cabinet, on the morning of the 4th March, at the moment when the Thirty-sixth Congress and Mr. Buchanan's administration were about to expire. In this the Major declares that he would not be willing to risk his reputation on an attempt to throw reenforcements into Charleston harbor with a force of less than twenty thousand good and well-disciplined men. Commander Ward's expedition, consisting of only a few small vessels, borrowed from the Treasury Department and the Coast Survey, with but two or three hundred men on board, was necessarily abandoned. On the next day (5th March) the Secretary of War transmitted Major Anderson's letter, with its enclosures, to President Lincoln. This he accompanied by a letter from himself reviewing the correspondence between the War Department and Major Anderson from the date of his removal to Fort Sumter. The following is a copy, which we submit without comment:

War Department, March 5TH 1861.
Sir: I have the honor to submit for your consideration several letters with enclosures received on yesterday from Major Anderson and Captain Foster, of the Corps of Engineers, which are of a most important and unexpected character. Why they were unexpected will appear from the following brief statement:

After transferring his forces to Fort Sumter, he (Major Anderson) addressed a letter to this Department, under date of the 81st December, 1860, in which he says: “Thank God, we are now where the Government may send us additional troops at its leisure. To be sure the uncivil and uncourteous action of [212] the Governor [of South Carolina], in preventing us from purchasing any thing in the city, will annoy and inconvenience us somewhat; still we are safe.” And after referring to some deficiency in his stores, in the articles of soap and candles, he adds: “Still we can cheerfully put up with the inconvenience of doing without them for the satisfaction we feel in the knowledge that we can command this harbor as long as our Government wishes to keep it.” And again, on the 6th January, he wrote: “My position will, should there be no treachery among the workmen whom we are compelled to retain for the present, enable me to hold this fort against any force which can be brought against me; and it would enable me, in the event of war, to annoy the South Carolinians by preventing them from throwing in supplies into their new posts, except by the aid of the Wash Channel through Stone River.”

Before the receipt of this communication, the Government, being without information as to his condition, had despatched the Star of the West with troops and supplies for Fort Sumter; but the vessel having been fired on from a battery at the entrance to the harbor, returned without having reached her destination.

On the 16th January, 1861, in replying to Major Anderson's letters of the 31st December and of 6th January, I said: “Your late despatches, as well as the very intelligent statements of Lieutenant Talbot, have relieved the Government of the apprehensions previously entertained for your safety. In consequence it is not its purpose at present to reenforce you. The attempt to do so would no doubt be attended by a collision of arms and the effusion of blood—a national calamity, which the President is most anxious to avoid. You will, therefore, report frequently your condition, and the character and activity of the preparations, if any, which may be being made for an attack upon the fort, or for obstructing the Government in any endeavors it may make to strengthen your command. Should your despatches be of a nature too important to be intrusted to the mails, you will convey them by special messenger. Whenever, in your judgment, additional supplies or reenforcements are necessary for your safety or for a successful defence of the fort, you will at once [213] communicate the fact to this Department, and a prompt and vigorous effort will be made to forward them.”

Since the date of this letter Major Anderson has regularly and frequently reported the progress of the batteries being constructed around him, and which looked either to the defence of the harbor, or to an attack on his own position; but he has not suggested that these works compromised his safety, nor has he made any request that additional supplies or reenforcements should be sent to him. On the contrary, on the 30th January, 1861, in a letter to this Department, he uses this emphatic language: “I do hope that no attempt will be made by our friends to throw supplies in; their doing so would do more harm than good.”

On the 5th February, when referring to the batteries, etc., constructed in his vicinity, he said: “Even in their present condition, they will make it impossible for any hostile force, other than a large and well-appointed one, to enter this harbor, and the chances are that it will then be at a great sacrifice of life;” and in a postscript he adds: “Of course in speaking of forcing an entrance, I do not refer to the little stratagem of a small party slipping in.” This suggestion of a stratagem was well considered in connection with all the information that could be obtained bearing upon it; and in consequence of the vigilance and number of the guard-boats in and outside of the harbor, it was rejected as impracticable.

In view of these very distinct declarations, and of the earnest desire to avoid a collision as long as possible, it was deemed entirely safe to adhere to the line of policy indicated in my letter of the 16th January, which has been already quoted. In that Major Anderson had been requested to report “at once,” “whenever, in his judgment, additional supplies or reenforcements were necessary for his safety or for a successful defence of the fort” So long, therefore, as he remained silent upon this point, the Government felt that there was no ground for apprehension. Still, as the necessity for action might arise at any moment, an expedition has been quietly prepared and is ready to sail from New York on a few hours' notice for transporting troops and supplies to Fort Sumter. This step was taken under the supervision of General Scott, who arranged its details, and who regarded [214] the reenforcements thus provided for as sufficient for the occasion. The expedition, however, is not upon a scale approaching the seemingly extravagant estimates of Major Anderson and Captain Foster, now offered for the fist time, and for the disclosures of which the Government was wholly unprepared.

The declaration now made by the Major that he would not be willing to risk his reputation on an attempt to throw reenforcements into Charleston harbor, and with a view of holding possession of the same, with a force of less than twenty thousand good and well-disciplined men, takes the Department by surprise, as his previous correspondence contained no such intimation.

I have the honor to be,

Very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

J. Holt. To the President.

Having pointed out the course pursued by President Buchanan in regard to Fort Sumter, we must now return to Fort Pickens, in Florida. This feeble State was the last from which a revolutionary outbreak could have reasonably been expected. Its numbers had not entitled it to admission into the Union, and a large amount of blood and treasure had been expended by the Government of the United States for the protection and defence of its inhabitants against the Seminole Indians Nevertheless, weak as the State was, its troops, under the command of Colonel William H. Chase, formerly of the corps of engineers of the United States army, suddenly rose in rebellion, attacked the troops of the United States, and expelled them from Pensacola and the adjacent navy yard. Lieutenant Slemmer, of the artillery, and his brave little command, consisting of between seventy and eighty men, were thus forced to take refuge in Fort Pickens, where they were in imminent danger of being captured every moment by a greatly superior force.

From the interruption of regular communications with Washington, Secretary Holt did not receive information of these events until some days after their occurrence, and then only through a private channel Reenforcements were despatched [215] to Fort Pickens without a moment's unnecessary delay. The Brooklyn, after being superseded by the Star of the West, had fortunately remained at her old station, ready for any exigency. She immediately took on board a company of United States troops from Fortress Monroe, under the command of Captain Vogdes, of the artillery, and with provisions and military store left Hampton Roads on the 24th January for Fort Pickens. The Secretary of the Navy had, with prudent precaution, withdrawn from foreign stations all the vessels of war which could possibly be spared with any regard to the protection of our foreign commerce, and had thus rendered the home squadron unusually large. Several of the vessels of which it was composed were at the time in the vicinity of Fort Pickens. These, united with the Brooklyn, were deemed sufficient for its defence. ‘The fleet,’ says the Secretary, ‘could have thrown six hundred men into the fort (seamen and marines), without including the company from Fortress Monroe.’1

Four days after the Brooklyn had left Fortress Monroe, Senators Slidell, Hunter, and Bigler received a telegraphic despatch from Senator Mallory, of Florida, dated at Pensacola on the 28th January, with an urgent request that they would lay it before the President. This despatch expressed an ardent desire to preserve the peace, as well as the most positive assurance from himself and Colonel Chase, that no attack would be made on the fort if its present status should be suffered to remain. The President carefully considered this proposal. The Brooklyn might not arrive in time for the preservation of this important fort, and for the relief of Lieutenant Slemmer. Besides, a collision at that point between the opposing forces would prove fatal to the Peace Convention so earnestly urged by Virginia, and then about to assemble. But, on the other hand, the fort was greatly in need of provisions, and these must at every hazard be supplied. Mr. Mallory and Colonel Chase must be distinctly informed that our fleet in the vicinity would be always on the alert and ready to act at a moment's warning, not only in case the fort should be attacked, but whenever the officers [216] in command should observe preparations for such an attack. No precaution must be omitted on their part necessary to hold the fort.

The conclusion at which the President arrived, with the approbation of every member of his Cabinet, will be seen in the joint order dated on the 29th January, immediately transmitted by telegraph from Secretaries Toucey and Holt to the commanders of the Macedonian and Rrooklyn and ‘other naval officers in command,’ and ‘to Lieutenant A. J. Slemmer, 1st artillery, commanding Fort Pickens, Pensacola, Florida.’ The following is a copy: ‘In consequence of the assurances received from Mr. Mallory in a telegram of yesterday to Messrs. Slidell, Hunter, and Bigler, with a request it should be laid before the President, that Fort Pickens would not be assaulted, and an offer of such assurance to the same effect from Colonel Chase, for the purpose of avoiding a hostile collision, upon receiving satisfactory assurances from Mr. Mallory and Colonel Chase that Fort Pickens will not be attacked, you are instructed not to land the company on board the Brooklyn unless said fort shall be attacked, or preparations shall be made for its attack. The provisions necessary for the supply of the fort you will land. The Brooklyn and the other vessels of war on the station will remain, and you will exercise the utmost vigilance and be prepared at a moment's warning to land the company at Fort Pickens, and you and they will instantly repel any attack on the fort. The President yesterday sent a special message to Congress communicating the Virginia resolutions of compromise. The commissioners of different States are to meet here on Monday, the 4th February, and it is important that during their session a collision of arms should be avoided, unless an attack should be made, or there should be preparations for such an attack. In either event the Brooklyn and the other vessels will act promptly. Your right, and that of the other officers in command at Pensacola, freely to communicate by special messenger [with the Government], and its right in the same manner to communicate with yourself and them, will remain intact, as the basis on which the present instruction is given.’

On the arrival of this order at Pensacola the satisfactory [217] assurances which it required were given by Mr. Mallory and Colonel Chase to our naval and military commanders, and the result proved most fortunate. The Brooklyn had a long passage. Although she left Fortress Monroe on the 24th January, she did not arrive at Pensacola until the 6th February. In the mean time Fort Pickens, with Lieutenant Slemmer (whose conduct deserves high commendation) and his command, were, by virtue of this order, supplied with provisions and placed in perfect security, until an adequate force had arrived to defend it against any attack. The fort has ever since been in our possession.

General Scott, in his report to President Lincoln, speaks of this arrangement in the hostile spirit toward President Buchanan which pervades the whole document. He condemns it without qualification. He alleges ‘that the Brooklyn, with Captain Vogdes' company alone, left the Chesapeake for tort Pickens about January the 22d, and on the 29th President Buchanan, having entered into a quasi armistice with certain leading seceders at Pensacola and elsewhere, caused Secretaries Holt and Toucey to instruct, in a joint note, the commanders of the war vessels off Pensacola, and Lieutenant Slemmer, commanding Fort Pickens, to commit no act of hostility, and not to land Captain Vogdes' company unless the fort should be attacked.’ He washes his hands of all knowledge of the transaction by declaring, ‘That joint note I never saw, but suppose the armistice was consequent upon the meeting of the Peace Convention at Washington, and was understood to terminate with it.’

Will it be believed that General Scott himself had expressly approved this joint order before it was issued, which he presents to President Lincoln in such odious colors? President Buchanan had a distinct recollection that either the Secretary of War or of the Navy, or both, had at the time informed him of this fact. Still he would have hesitated to place himself before the public on an important question of veracity in direct opposition to a report to his successor by the Commanding General of the army. He was relieved from this embarrassment by finding among his papers a note from Secretary Holt to himself, dated on the 29th January, the day on which the joint order was issued. From [218] this the following is an extract: ‘I have the satisfaction of saying that on submitting the paper to General Scott he expressed himself entirely satisfied with it, saying that there could be no objection to the arrangement in a military point of view or otherwise.’ How does General Scott, in November, 1862, attempt to escape from this dilemma Whilst acknowledging that few persons are as little liable as Mr. Holt to make a misstatement, either by accident or design, he yet states that he has not the slightest recollection of any interview with him on the subject2 He proceeds to say that he does indeed remember that Mr. Holt, about this time, approached his bedside when he was suffering from an access of pain; leaving it to be inferred, though he does not directly say so, that this might account for his want of attention; and then he slides off, as is his wont, to another subject. But his subterfuge will not avail him. The testimony of Mr. Holt is conclusive that he not only expressed his satisfaction with the order, but expressly declared that there could be no objection to it in a military or any other point of view. It is impossible that Mr. Holt, on the very day of the interview, and without any conceivable motive, should have made a false report to the President of what had just occurred between himself and the General Strange forgetfulness!

General Scott, also, in his report to President Lincoln, comments severely on the delay of the order for reenforcements to Fort Taylor, Key West, and Fort Jefferson, Tortugas Island, notwithstanding this had been issued so early as the 4th January, and though these reenforcements had arrived in sufficient time to render both forts perfectly secure. This the General admits; and there the matter ought to have ended. But not so. It was necessary to elicit from this simple transaction reasons for magnifying his own services and censuring President Buchanan. According to the report, he had experienced great difficulty in obtaining permission from the President to send these reenforcements; ‘and this,’ says he, ‘was only effected by the aid of Secretary Holt, a strong and loyal man.’ He then launches forth into the fearful consequences which might [219] have followed but for his own vigilance and foresight He even goes so far as to say that with the possession of these forts, ‘the rebels might have purchased an early recognition.’

In opposition to these fanciful speculations, what is the simple statement of the fact? The administration were well aware of the importance of these forts to the commerce of the Gulf of Mexico. General Scott asked the attention of Secretary Floyd, then about to leave office, to the reenforcement of them by a note of the 28th December. Not receiving any response, he addressed a note on the 80th to the President on the same subject The rupture with the first South Carolina commissioners occurred on the 2d January, and the time had then arrived when the President, acting on his established, policy, deemed it necessary to send reenforcements not only to Fort Sumter, but also to Forts Taylor and Jefferson, and these were accordingly despatched to the two latter on the 4th January. The same course precisely would have been pursued had General Scott remained at his headquarters in New York.

But the most remarkable instance of General Scott's want of memory remains to be exposed. This is not contained in his report to President. Lincoln, but is to be found in his letter of the 8th November, 1862, to the ‘National Intelligencer,’ in reply to that of ex-President Buchanan. Unable to controvert any of the material facts stated in this letter, the General deemed. it wise to escape from his awkward position by repeating and indorsing the accusation against Secretary Floyd, in regard to what has been called ‘the stolen arms,’ although this had been condemned as unfounded more than eighteen months before, by the report of the Committee on Military Affairs of the House of Representatives. This was that the Secretary, in order to furnish aid to the approaching rebellion, had fraudulently sent public arms to the South for the use of the insurgents. This charge chimed in admirably with public prejudice at the moment. Although the committee, after full investigation, had so long before as January, 1861, proved it to be unfounded, yet it has continued, notwithstanding, to be repeated and extensively credited up till the present moment. Numerous respectable citizens still believe that the Confederate [220] States have been fighting us with cannon, rifles, and muskets thus treacherously placed in their possession. This delusion presents a striking illustration of the extent to which public prejudice may credit a falsehood not only without foundation, but against the clearest official evidence. Although the late President has not been implicated as an accessory to the alleged fraud, yet he has been charged with a want of vigilance in not detecting and defeating it.

The pretext on which General Scott seized to introduce this new subject of controversy at so late a period, is far-fetched and awkward. Mr. Buchanan, whilst repelling the charge in the General's report to President Lincoln, that he had acted under the influence of Secretary Floyd in refusing to garrison the Southern fortifications, declares that ‘all my Cabinet must bear me witness that I was the President myself, responsible for all the acts of the administration; and certain it is that during the last six months previous to the 29th December, 1860, the day on which he resigned his office, after my request, he exercised less influence in the administration than any other member of the Cabinet.’3 Whereupon the General, in order to weaken the force and impair the credibility of this declaration, makes the following insidious and sarcastic remarks: ‘Now, notwithstanding this broad assumption of responsibility, I should be sorry to believe that Mr. Buchanan specially consented to the removal, by Secretary Floyd, of 115,000 extra muskets and rifles, with all their implements and ammunition, from Northern repositories to Southern arsenals, so that on the breaking out of the maturing rebellion, they might be found without cost, except to the United States, in the most convenient positions for distribution among the insurgents. So, too, of the one hundred and twenty or one hundred and forty pieces of heavy artillery, which the same Secretary ordered from Pittsburg to Ship Island, in Lake Borgne, and Galveston, Texas, for forts not yet erected. Accidentally learning, early in March, that under this posthumous order the shipment of these guns had commenced, I communicated the fact to Secretary Holt (acting for Secretary Cameron) just in time to defeat the robbery.’ [221] Whilst writing this paragraph it would seem impossible that the General had ever read the report of the Committee on Military Affairs, and equally impossible that he, as Commanding General of the army, should have been ignorant of this important document, so essentially connected with his official duties.

But to proceed to the report of the committee, which effectually disproves the General's assertions. At the commencement of the session of 1860-61, public rumor gave birth to this charge. It very justly and properly attracted the attention of the House of Representatives, and from its nature demanded a rigorous investigation. Accordingly, on the motion of Mr. Stanton, of Ohio, the chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs, the House adopted a resolution instructing the committee ‘to inquire and report to the House to whom and at what price the public arms, distributed since the 1st January, 1860, had been disposed of,’ etc., etc. The investigation was deemed of such paramount importance that the House authorized the committee not only to send for persons and papers, but also to report at any time in preference to all other business. From the nature of the charge it could not be difficult for the committee to establish either its truth or its falsehood. Arms could not be removed from one armory or arsenal to another by Secretary Floyd, without the knowledge and active participation of the officers and attaches of the Ordnance Bureau. At its head was Colonel Craig, an officer as loyal and faithful as any who belonged to the army. It was through his agency alone that the arms could have been removed, and it is certain that had he known or suspected treachery on the part of the Secretary, he would instantly have communicated this to the President, in order that it might be defeated.

The committee made their first report to the House on the 9th January, 1861.4 With this they presented two tables (Nos. 2 and 3), communicated to them by Mr. Holt, then the Secretary of War, from the Ordnance Bureau, exhibiting ‘the number and description of arms distributed since 1st January, 1860, to the States and Territories, and at what price.’ Whoever [222] shall examine table No. 2 will discover that the Southern and Southwestern States received much less in the aggregate instead of more than the quota of arms to which they were justly entitled under the law for arming the militia. Indeed, it is a remarkable fact that neither Arkansas, Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, nor Texas received any portion of these arms, though they were army muskets of the very best quality. This arose simply from their own neglect, because the quota to which they were entitled would have been delivered to each of them on a simple application to the Ordnance Bureau. The whole number of muskets distributed among all the States, North and South, was just 8,423. Of these the Southern and Southwestern States received only 2,091, or less than one-fourth. Again, the whole number of long range rifles of the army calibre distributed among all the States in the year 1860, was 1,728. Of these, six of the Southern and Southwestern States, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia received in the aggregate 758, and the remainder of these States did not receive any.

Thus it appears that the aggregate of rifles and muskets distributed in 1860 was 10,151, of which the Southern and Southwestern States received 2,849, or between one-third and one-fourth of the whole number. Such being the state of the facts, well might Mr. Stanton have observed in making this report, much to his credit for candor and fairness, that ‘there are a good deal of rumors, and speculations, and misapprehension as to the true state of facts in regard to this matter.’5 The report of the committee and the opinion expressed by its chairman before the House, it might have been supposed, would satisfy General Scott that none of these muskets or rifles had been purloined by Secretary Floyd. But not so. The ex-President had stated in his letter to the ‘National Intelligencer,’ of November 7th, 1862, that ‘the Southern States received in 1860 less instead of more than the quota of arms to which they were entitled by law.’ This statement was founded on the report of the committee, which had now been brought fully to his notice. He, notwithstanding, still persisted in his [223] error, and in his letter to the National Intelligencer of the 2d December, 1862, he says: ‘This is most strange contrasted with information given to me last year, and a telegram just received from Washington and a high officer, not of the Ordnance Department, in these words and figures: “Rhode Island, Delaware, and Texas had not drawn at the end of eighteen sixty (1860) their annual quotas of arms for that year, and Massachusetts, Tennessee, and Kentucky only in part. Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Kansas were by the order of the Secretary of War supplied with their quotas for eighteen sixty-one (1861) in advance, and Pennsylvania and Maryland in part.” ’ It is in vain that the General attempts to set up an anonymous telegram against the report of the committee. From what source did he derive the information given to him last year? And who was the author of the telegram? He does not say in either case. Surely before he gave this telegram to the world, under the sanction of his own name, he ought to have ascertained from the Ordnance Bureau whether it was true or false. This he might easily and speedily have done, had he been careful to present an authentic statement. There is a mysterious vagueness about this telegram, calculated if not intended to deceive the casual reader into the belief that a great number of these arms had been distributed among the enumerated States, embracing their quotas not only for 1860 but for 1861. From it no person could imagine that these eight States in the aggregate had received fewer muskets and rifles than would be required to arm two full regiments.

The next subject investigated by the committee was, had Secretary Floyd sent any cannon to the Southern States? This was a most important inquiry. Our columbiads and 32pound-ers were at the time considered equal, if not superior, to any cannon in the world. It was easy to ascertain whether he had treacherously, or otherwise, sent any of these formidable weapons to the South. Had he done this, it would have been impossible to conceal the fact and escape detection. The size and ponderous weight of these cannon rendered it impracticable to remove them from the North to the South without the knowledge of many outside persons, in addition to those connected [224] with the Ordnance Bureau. The committee reported on this subject on the 18th February, 1861. There was no evidence before them that any of these cannon had actually been transmitted to the South. Indeed, this was not even pretended. From their report, however, it does appear that Secretary Floyd had attempted to do this on one occasion a very short time before he left the department, but that he had failed in this attempt in consequence of a countermand of his order issued by Mr. Holt, his successor in the War Department.

It requires but a few words to explain the whole transaction. Secretary Floyd, on the 20th December, 1860, without the knowledge of the President, ordered Captain (now Colonel) Maynadier, of the Ordnance Bureau, to cause the guns necessary for the armament of the forts on Ship Island and at Galveston to be sent to those places. This order was given verbally and not in the usual form. It was not recorded, and the forts were far from being prepared to receive their armaments. The whole number of guns required for both forts, according to the statement of the Engineer Department to Captain Maynadier, was one hundred and thirteen columbiads and eleven 82-pounders. When, late in December, 1860, these were about to be shipped at Pittsburg for their destination on the steamer Silver Wave, a committee of gentlemen from that city first brought the facts to the notice of President Buchanan The consequence was, that, in the language of the report of the committee: ‘Before the order of the late Secretary of War [Floyd] had been fully executed by the actual shipment of said guns from Pittsburg, it was countermanded by the present Secretary.’ This prompt proceeding elicited a vote of thanks, on the 4th January, 1861, from the Select and Common Councils of that city, ‘to the President, the Attorney-General [Black], and the acting Secretary of War [Holt].’

It is of this transaction, so clearly explained by the committee in February, 1861, that General Scott, so long after as the 8th November, 1862, speaks in the language which we again quote: ‘Accidentally learning, early in March, that under this posthumous order [of Secretary Floyd] the shipment of these guns had commenced, I communicated the fact to Secretary [225] Holt (acting for Secretary Cameron) just in time to defeat the robbery.’ This statement is plain and explicit. The period of the General's alleged communication to Secretary Holt is precisely fixed. It was in March, after the close of Mr. Buchanan's administration, and whilst Mr. Holt was acting for Secretary Cameron, who had not yet taken possession of the department. This was just in time. to prevent the ‘pothumous’ order of Secretary Floyd from being carried into execution. Why does the General italicize the word ‘posthumous’? Perhaps he did not understand its signification. If this word has any meaning as applicable to the subject, it is that Mr. Floyd had issued the order to Captain Maynadier after his office had expired. Be this as it may, the object is palpable. It was to show that Mr. Buchanan had suffered his administration to terminate leaving the ‘posthumous.’ order of Governor Floyd in full force until after Mr. Lincoln's accession, and that it would even then have been carried into execution but for the General's lucky interposition.

The General, in his letter to the National Intelligencer of 2d December, 1862, attempts to excuse this deplorable want of memory to the prejudice of Mr. Buchanan. Whilst acknowledging his error in having said that the countermand of Mr. Floyd's order was in March, instead of early in the previous January, he insists that this was an immaterial mistake, and still actually claims the credit of having prevented the shipment of the cannon. ‘An immaterial mistake!’ Why, time was of the very essence of the charge against Mr. Buchanan. It was the alleged delay from January till March in countermanding the order, which afforded any pretext for an assault on his administration. After his glaring mistake had been exposed, simple justice, not to speak of magnanimity, would have required that he should retract his error in a very different spirit and manner from that which he has employed.

It is due to Colonel Maynadier to gives his own explanation for having obeyed the order of Secretary Floyd. In his letter to the Potter Committee of the House of Representatives, dated 3d February, 1862, he says: ‘In truth it never entered my mind at this time (20th December, 1860), that there could be [226] any improper motive or object in the order, for on the question of union and secession Mr. Floyd was then regarded throughout the country as a strong advocate of the Union and opponent of secession. He had recently published, over his own signature, in a Richmond paper, a letter on this subject, which gained him high credit at the North for his boldness in rebuking the pernicious views of many in his own State.’

The committee, then, in the third place, extended back their inquiry into the circumstances under which Secretary Floyd had a year before, in December, 1859, ordered the removal of one-fifth of the old percussion and flint-lock muskets from the Springfield armory, where they had accumulated in inconvenient numbers, to five Southern arsenals. The committee, after examining Colonel Craig, Captain Maynadier, and other witnesses, merely reported to the House the testimony they had taken, without in the slightest degree implicating the conduct of Secretary Floyd. Indeed, this testimony is wholly inconsistent with the existence of any improper motive on his part. He issued the order to Colonel Craig (December 29th, 1859) almost a year before Mr. Lincoln's election, several months before his nomination at Chicago, and before the Democratic party had destroyed its prospects of success by breaking up the Charleston Convention. Besides, Secretary Floyd was at the time, as he had always been, an open and avowed opponent of secession. Indeed, long afterwards, when the question had assumed a more serious aspect, we are informed, as already stated by Captain Maynadier, that he had in a Richmond paper boldly rebuked the advocates of this pernicious doctrine. The order and all the proceedings under it were duly recorded. The arms were not to be removed in haste, but ‘from time to time as may be most suitable for economy and transportation,’ and they were to be distributed among the arsenals, ‘in proportion to their respective means of proper storage.’ All was openly transacted, and the order was carried into execution by the Ordnance Bureau according to the usual course of administration, without any reference to the President.

The United States had on hand 499,554, say 500,000 of these muskets. They were in every respect inferior to the new rifle [227] muskets, with which the army had for some years been supplied. They were of the old calibre of 69/100 of an inch, which had been changed in 1855 to that of 55/100 in the new rifled muskets. It was 105,000 of these arms that Secretary Floyd ordered to be sent to the five Southern arsenals; ‘65,000 of them were percussion muskets of the calibre of 69/100, and 40,000 of this calibre altered to percussion.’ By the same order 10,000 of the old percussion rifles of the calibre of 54/100 were removed to these arsenals. These constitute the 115,000 extra muskets and rifles, with all their implements and ammunition, which, according to General Scott's allegation nearly three years thereafter, had been sent to the South to furnish arms to the future insurgents. We might suppose from this description, embracing ‘ammunition,’ powder and ball, though nowhere to be found except in his own imagination, that the secessionists were just ready to commence the civil wars His sagacity, long after the fact, puts to shame the dulness of the Military Committee. Whilst obliged to admit that the whole proceeding was officially recorded, he covers it with an air of suspicion by asserting that the transaction was ‘very quietly conducted.’ And yet it was openly conducted according to the prescribed forms, and must have been known at the time to a large number of persons including the General himself, outside either of the War Department, the Springfield armory, or the Southern arsenals. In truth, there was not then the least motive for concealment, even had this been possible.

The General pronounces these muskets and rifles to have been of an ‘extra’ quality. It may, therefore, be proper to state from the testimony what was their true character.

In 1857 proceedings had been instituted by the War Department, under the act of 3d March, 1825, ‘to authorize the sale of unserviceable ordnance, arm, and military stores.’6 The inspecting officers under the act condemned 190,000 of the old muskets, ‘as unsuitable for the public service,’ and recommended that they be sold. In the spring of 1859, 50,000 of them were offered at public sale. ‘The bids received,’ says Colonel Craig, ‘were very unsatisfactory, ranging from 10 1/2 [228] cents to $2.00, except one bid for a small lot for $3.50. In sub. hitting them to the Secretary I recommended that none of them be accepted at less than $2.00.’ An effort was then made to dispose of them at private sale for the fixed price of $2.50. So low was the estimate in which they were held, that this price could not be obtained, except for 31,610 of them in parcels. It is a curious fact, that although the State of Louisiana had purchased 5,000 of them at $2.50, she refused to take more than 2,500. On the 5th July, 1859, Mr. H. G. Fant purchased a large lot of them at $2.50 each, payable in ninety days; but in the mean time he thought better of it, and like the State of Louisiana failed to comply with his contract. And Mr. Belnap, whose bid at $2.15 for 100,000 of them intended for the Sardinian Government had been accepted by the Secretary, under the impression it was $2.50, refuted to take them at this price after the mistake had been corrected. Colonel Craig, in speaking of these muskets generally, both those which had and had not been condemned, testified that ‘It is certainly advisable to get rid of that kind of arms whenever we have a sufficient number of others to supply their places, and to have all our small arms of one calibre. The new gun is rifled. A great many of those guns [flint-locks], altered to percussion, are not strong enough to rifle, and therefore they are an inferior gun. They are of a different calibre from those now manufactured by the Government.’

Had the cotton States at the time determined upon rebellion, what an opportunity they lost of supplying themselves with these condemned ‘extra muskets and rifles’ of General Scott!

In opposition to the strictures of General Scott upon Mr. Buchanan's administration, it may be pardonable to state the estimate in which it was held by Mr. Holt, the Secretary of War. No man living had better opportunities than himself of forming a just judgment of its conduct, especially in regard to military matters. Besides, in respect to these, he had been in constant official communication with General Scott from the first of January, 1861, until the inauguration of President Lincoln. He, had previously been Postmaster-General from the decease of his predecessor, Governor Brown, in March, 1859, [229] until the last day of December, 1860, when he was appointed Secretary of War, at this period the most important and responsible position in the Cabinet. In this he continued until the end of the administration. In his customary letter of resignation addressed to Mr. Buchanan, immediately before the advent of the new administration, and now on file in the State Department, he did not confine himself to the usual routine in such cases, but has voluntarily added an expression of his opinion of the administration of which he had been so long a member. He says that—

In thus terminating our official relations, I avail myself of the occasion to express to you my heartfelt gratitude for the confidence with which, in this and other high positions, you have honored me, and for the firm and generous support which you have constantly extended to me, amid the arduous and perplexing duties which I have been called to perform. In the full conviction that your labors will yet be crowned by the glory that belongs to an enlightened statesmanship and to an unsullied patriotism, and with sincerest wishes for your personal happiness, I remain most truly

Your friend,

It is fair to observe that the policy of President Lincoln toward the seven cotton States which had seceded before his inauguration, was, in the main, as conservative and forbearing as that of Mr. Buchanan. No fault can be justly found with his inaugural address, except that portion of it derogating from the authority of decisions of the Supreme Court. This was doubtless intended to shield the resolution of the Chicago platform, prohibiting slavery in Territories, from the Dred Scott decision. It cannot be denied that this had at the time an unhappy influence upon the border States, because it impaired the hope of any future compromise of this vital question.

President Lincoln specifies and illustrates the character of his inaugural in his subsequent message to Congress of the 4th July, 1861. He says: ‘The policy chosen looked to the exhaustion of all peaceable measures, before a resort to any stronger [230] ones. It sought to hold the public places and property, not already wrested from the Government, and to collect the revenue, relying for the rest on time, discussion, and the ballot-box. It promised a continuance of the mails at Government expense to the very people who were resisting the Government, and it gave repeated pledges against any disturbance to any of the people or any of their rights. Of all that a President might constitutionally and justifiably do in such a case, every thing was forborne without which it was possible to keep the Government on foot.’

The policy thus announced, whilst like that of Mr. Buchanan, was of a still more forbearing character. Nay, more; the administration of Mr. Lincoln deliberated, and at one time, it is believed, had resolved, on the advice of General Scott, to withdraw the troops under Major Anderson from the harbor of Charleston, although this had been repeatedly and peremptorily refused by the preceding administration. If sound policy had not enjoined this forbearing course, it would have been dictated by necessity, because Congress had adjourned after having deliberately refused to provide either men or means for a defensive, much less an aggressive movement.

The policy thus announced by Mr. Lincoln, under the circumstances, was the true policy. It was the only policy which could present a reasonable hope of preserving and confirming the border States in their allegiance to the Government. It was the only policy which could by possibility enable these States to bring back the seceded cotton States into the Union. It was the only policy which could cordially unite the Northern people in the suppression of rebellion, should they be compelled to resist force by force for the preservation of the Constitution and the Union. It was, however, rendered impossible to pursue this conservative policy any longer after the Government of the Confederate cotton States, on the 13th April, 1861, had commenced the civil war by the bombardment and capture of Fort Sumter. Its wisdom has been vindicated by the unanimous and enthusiastic uprising of the Northern people, without distinction of party, to suppress the rebellion which had thus been inaugurated.

1 His testimony before the Hale Committee and the court-Martial on Captain Armstrong. Report No. 37, pp. 58, 284.

2 General Scott's rejoinder to ex-President Buchanan, “National Intelligencer,” Nov. 12 1862.

3 Letter to ‘National Intelligencer,’ 28th Oct., 1862.

4 ‘Congressional Globe,’ p. 294. Howe Journal, p. 156.

5 ‘Congressional Globe,’ 1860-61, p. 294.

6 4 stat. at Large, 127.

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